Did trespassing videos exchanged by neighbors set stage for Ahmaud Arbery’s killing?

Videos of person inside home under construction circulated on Next Door in weeks before deadly shooting

One of 11 surveillance videos of people inside a Satilla Shores home under construction released by the attorney for the property owner.
One of 11 surveillance videos of people inside a Satilla Shores home under construction released by the attorney for the property owner. (Larry English)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Four different Glynn County Police Department incident reports provide law enforcement narratives of previous trespassing incidents and suggest residents at the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick were on the lookout for an “unknown black male" in the days leading up to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Oct. 25, 2019 - Trespassing

Property owner Larry English was overseeing the construction of a house on Satilla Drive from his home in Coffee County, two hours away from Brunswick. His motion-activated cameras captured a person entering the unfinished home on the night of Oct. 25, 2019, which prompted English to call police at 10:04 p.m.

The incident report details English’s description of the person as a black male with tattoos down both arms, curly hair, shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt.

“Caller says he appears to be drunk or on something,” the report said. “Caller would like an officer to find out what he is doing there and have him removed from the property.”

English told police that he did not know how the man got to the house nor could he identify the person.

According to police notes, English requested a call from one of the responding officers and offered to send a picture of the man to the GCPD.

Three units are listed as “responding officers” in the report. One of them was Officer Robert Rash, who would later make contact with English and enlist the help of former DA investigator and Glynn County police officer Greg McMichael.

Surveillance stills of people inside a home building built on Satilla Shores.
Surveillance stills of people inside a home building built on Satilla Shores.

Nov. 18, 2019 - Extra watch

Another trespassing report at the address of English’s unfinished house on Satilla Drive on Nov. 18, 2019 was later changed to an “extra watch” classification. This report describes a black male wearing no shirt and light-colored shorts with tattoos.

The report does not identify the caller as the owner of the property but does say the caller was not at the location, was watching the incident play out on camera, lives in Coffee County and “had the same issue with this male about three weeks ago."

The caller asked for a phone call from one of the responding officers.

Jan. 1, 2020 - Theft from a vehicle

Five houses down Satilla Drive from English’s property, another report was filed on New Year’s Day by Travis McMichael, who would later be charged with murder and aggravated assault in the death of 25-year-old Arbery.

McMichael called police shortly after 11 a.m. on Jan. 1 to report that someone had stolen a Smith and Wesson handgun out of his unlocked truck sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. that morning.

McMichael told police that his father, Greg McMichael, had moved his truck and failed to relock the vehicle around 9:30 a.m. and an hour later, Travis checked the truck and found the empty holster on the seat.

Investigators checked for fingerprints in the truck but that search came up empty.

This report did not include a suspect description.

Feb. 11, 2020 - Trespassing

A burglary was reported by Travis McMichael on Feb. 11, but the incident was later downgraded to a “trespassing” report.

At 7:27 p.m., Officer Rash responded to McMichael’s call about an intruder at English’s property -- the house under construction on Satilla Drive.

This redacted screenshot was captured from security camera footage captured at 220 Satilla Drive on February 11, 2020.
This redacted screenshot was captured from security camera footage captured at 220 Satilla Drive on February 11, 2020. (Courtesy: Attorney for Larry English)

“The unknown male appears to be a lighter-skinned black male, slender build, approximately 5′10′-6′ tall, both arms looked to be covered in tattoos,” Rash’s narrative in the police report said. “Male has 3-4” twist/dreads hairstyle."

The police report said McMichael told Rash he spotted the man walking across the property and into the unfinished home next door. McMichael told police that he turned his truck around and returned to English’s property and saw the unknown man run back through the house into the area of that backyard.

The report said McMichael waited outside English’s construction site until police arrived, at which point investigators searched the area but did not find the person McMichael described.

Rash then called English, who said his cameras did capture a man inside his Satilla property and that it appeared to be the same man from all the previously reported incidents.

“Once again, English stated it appears the unknown male is only trespassing and plundering around as he has yet to see where anything has been taken," Rash’s report said.

Several officers worked to canvass the neighborhood in search of the unidentified man but never found him.

Rash said the videos captured by English’s security cameras and descriptions of the unknown suspect were being spread around the neighborhood via a Satilla Shores Facebook group and the networking application Nextdoor.

A text message sent by Satilla Shores resident Diego Perez to English described the Feb. 11 confrontation.

“The police showed up and we all searched for a good while," Perez said in the text message. "I think he got spooked and ran after Travis confronted him. Travis says the guy ran into the house. Let me know if he shows up or if they find him. I appreciate you letting me know.”

The person seen in the surveillance videos was not identified by neighbors or law enforcement, according to that incident report.

Arbery was not named in any of these reports.

English’s attorney, Beth Graddy, provided 11 videos showing a variety of people of different races and ages inside the home under construction in the four months prior to Arbery’s death. Arbery’s family confirmed that Arbery was the man seen on surveillance video in the home on Feb. 23 minutes before he was shot and killed while running on Satilla Drive.

“Larry English, who suffers from a debilitating illness and lives in another county, had no idea what was transpiring,” Graddy said in a written statement. “He reported all nighttime entries onto his property, although it appears that these did not always result in incident reports. Officer Rash searched the property for signs of squatting after a white man and woman entered the house at night. Mr. English never accused anyone of a crime and simply wanted to curb the trespassing.”

“Mr. English himself has said no criminal activity ever took place there and it is clear that Ahmaud was on the premises in the past along with many other people,” S. Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys for Arbery’s family said in a statement emailed to CNN.